The ATM card market is being given priority by commercial banks to help them raise revenue next year.

According to the Vietnam National Financial Switching Joint-Stock Company (Banknetvn), Vietnam's banking system has 11,000 ATMs, 42,000 merchants and more than 40 card-issuing banks, with over 27 million payment cards issued.

The largest transaction processing systems, Banknetvn, Smartlink and VNBC, have established a network linking 42 member banks with more than 8,000 ATMs.

The ATM card market has high potential and Vietcombank (VCB) has issued more than four million domestic debit cards while Dong A Bank has three million card accounts. With as few as 50,000 ATM cards, commercial banks can raise large, cheap capital through ATM card services.

According to Global Petro Commercial Joint Stock Bank (PGBank), just a year after introducing its Flexicard card, it had issued 424,580 cards and petroleum sales paid by Flexicard had reached 3.6 trillion VND (186 million USD) in that time.

A survey conducted by Nielsen Co Vietnam found that up to 23 percent of customers used debit card services, one percent used credit cards and 100 percent were aware of ATM cards, but it also showed that the use of ATM cards remained low.

In mid- 2010, the State Bank of Vietnam asked State agencies to outline their plans to promote card payment in order to create favourable condition for developing ATM card services.

Banks such as Vietcombank, Eximbank, ACB and PG Bank have implemented a series of programmes to develop and encourage spending by card.

A representative of Petrolimex, a major shareholder in PG Bank, said customers can buy petrol and withdraw or deposit cash using their Flexicards at 1,800 of its petrol stations, and at more than 60 PG Bank ATM booths nationwide.

In Vietnam, ATM services are known mainly for cash transactions so to minimise the amount paid in cash, ATM cards are needed. Representatives of Petrolimex and PG Bank said they will continue to develop the point of sales network.

General Director of PG Bank Nguyen Quang Dinh said consumer habits of using cash and fierce competition between banks require them to make greater efforts.

Close links between banks and retail units are good conditions for the development of the payment card market in Vietnam, and with improved quality, local customers will further benefit from this convenient banking service, he said./.